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Hakuba's Majestic Snowy Peaks

World-Class Winter Sports Destination Is Popular Year-Round


The Hakuba Happoone Ski Resort. ©Nagano Prefectural Tourism Association

Hakuba is perhaps best known as having been the venue for various Alpine and Nordic events during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano. Perched in the northwest of centrally located Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba is also popular among hikers and as a summertime retreat. In recent years, it has been welcoming a growing number of international visitors. Hakuba is surrounded by the peaks of the Hida Mountain Range, also called the Northern Alps, stretching through Nagano, Niigata, Toyama, and Gifu Prefectures.

Olympic Venue
The Hida Mountains are sometimes referred to as the "roof of Japan," and cold fronts that blow in from the Sea of Japan dump a great deal of snow when they hit these tall peaks, creating an exhilarating panorama of beautiful, snow-covered mountains. Hakuba's first ski area was built in the Taisho era (1912-26), and today the village boasts seven resorts. The Hakuba Happoone Ski Resort is one of the biggest ski-only resorts in the country and hosted the downhill and other Alpine events during the 1998 Winter Games.


Happo Pond. ©Hakuba

There are also other ski areas in Hakuba with a variety of slopes that can be enjoyed by both novices, including young children, and experts. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy snowshoe trekking through scenic trails. Hakuba was also the Olympic venue for the ski jump, and it is possible to climb up to the starting tower when no competition is being held.

Other major ski resorts in Nagano include Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen. The latter was developed in tandem with the local government and the many hot spring inns operating in the village. Hakuba and these resorts are the three most popular skiing areas in the prefecture, and season passes are available that can be used at all three.


Soba. ©Nagano Prefectural Tourism Association

During the Green Season
Hakuba offers a different treat for nature lovers when the thick cover of snow melts in the spring, revealing pristine forests of alpine plants. There are many trails that have been popular with visitors since olden times, including those along the icecap-filled Hakuba snow gorges, one of Japan's largest such ravines.

From May to November, visitors can use three gondolas and lifts to travel 3,427 meters to Happo Ike Sanso at an elevation of 1,070 meters, affording a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding peaks. From there, there is a 2.5-kilometer hiking trail to the Happo Pond - famed for its special mystique - that is dotted with many unusual high-altitude flowers and plants. Hakuba, too, boasts many charming hot spring villages featuring a range of facilities, from open-air baths to footbaths.

After a day on the slopes or a trek along mountain paths, a hot bowl of soba (buckwheat noodles) can be very appetizing. Nagano is a center of buckwheat production, and its noodles are famous nationwide. Soba plants prefer a cool, dry, high-altitude climate, making Nagano a perfect place to grow them.

Soba noodles can also be enjoyed cold. Served on a sieve-like bamboo tray, the noodles are dipped in a sauce made from sweet sake, soy sauce, and broth that highlights the subtle sweetness and distinctive firmness of these noodles. (January 2009)